Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Special Collections Fossickings 45: Writing the North

In 1972, when Townsville was pulling itself together after the ravages of Cyclone Althea, a small group of locals gathered to form the Townsville Writers Group. To set this in the context of some of the city’s other arts groups, the writers were somewhat behind the establishment of the Arts Society (1962) and the Townsville Little Theatre (1969) but they preceded both the NQ Opera and Music Theatre Company (1980) and the Townsville Community Music Centre (1983).

Items from the North Queensland Collection, JCU Library Special Collections.
Members described themselves as “embryo short story writers” creating characters, scenes and events in a way that would transport readers to “a completely fictitious world” and as “poets whose joy was in the art of passionate and imaginative language.”  By September they had gathered enough material and confidence to release the first issue of their aptly-titled magazine “In Print”.

Four more issues appeared over the next two years but by 1980 a new group had emerged, bearing the name Writers in Townsville. Over the next decade WIT published eleven issues of a new magazine of short stories and poetry.  In the 1990s this gave way to a series of anthologies released under individual titles, a tradition continued in the new century.

Items from the North Queensland Collection, JCU Library Special Collections.
Non-fiction began to find a larger place in these anthologies in the form of personal anecdotes and memoir, short biographical pieces or descriptions of life in the city as it once was. The most recent, and most ambitious collection, appeared in 2013 as Voices of the North. Here poetry is retained, but fiction is absent. Instead, straight journalistic pieces (some from professional journos like Doug Kingston or John Anderson) mingle with reflective essays prompted by experiences such as an early morning on the river, a backyard barbecue or an old mango tree lost from the city centre.

Items from the North Queensland Collection, JCU Library Special Collections.
Well-known names – Steve Price, the late Bishop Putney, historian Noel Loos and even “the Croc” – give us their thoughts on topics close to their hearts, while other articles reach south to the Burdekin, west to Charters Towers and north to Tully. Clearly the productive and creative members of today’s Writers in Townsville are the direct descendants of those pioneer wordsmiths who, more than four decades ago, found the courage to put their work out there in the public domain.

Footnote: Special Collections holds most of WIT’s publications but some are lacking. If you find any of the following items occupying a dusty shelf at home, please contact us. Items we lack are numbers 3 and 5 of “In Print”, numbers 4 and 10 of “WIT Magazine” as well as the anthologies, “Fifty Flamingos” (1994) and “Sunlight & Shadow” (2004).

Story by Miniata

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